The History of Garrett County
Garrett County Sesquicentennial: A Look at Garrett County History
Article courtesy of Sarah Myers.
The land that we now know as Garrett County has an easy-to-follow history. First, English settlers arrived in Maryland and began moving West to explore and develop. Follow along with the timeline below that leads up to the formal creation of the county.
1600s: The Youghiogheny band of the Shawnee tribe settled in Garrett County
The Massawomeck tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy had villages there as well. According to Native Land Digital, a website offering free maps, the space upon which we play, live, eat, find love, and experience life is ever-changing. That space is something to be honored and treasured and the online maps bring awareness of the real lived history of Indigenous peoples and nations. You can see the map of Indigenous peoples of the land that is Garrett County online at https://native-land.ca/.
1632: English settle in what is now Maryland
In 1632, King Charles I of England granted a charter to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, yielding him proprietary rights to a region east of the Potomac River in exchange for a share of the income derived from the land.
1748: Frederick County splits off from Prince George’s County
After Prince George’s grew to 23 hundreds (the word for subdivisions), the county was split up in 1748, with the majority of its land and about half its hundreds becoming part of Frederick County (some of which later became Montgomery County). The number of hundreds fell and rose again, but never reached its old maximum.
1755: The Braddock Expedition passes through Garrett County with Lt. Col. George Washington
In 1755, General Edward Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, was commissioned with expelling the French from the Ohio Valley by taking Fort Duquesne in present-day Pittsburgh. Additionally, Braddock’s expeditionary force would clear a road from Fort Cumberland (Cumberland, Maryland) to Fort Duquesne. This action was performed in conjunction with several other campaigns against the French in North America that year.
Washington also played a key role as an advisor to General Braddock. Washington spent his early adulthood surveying the lands granted to the Fairfax family. This gave him valuable information on the best route to From Alexandria, Virginia to Cumberland, Maryland. He also held a deep interest in settling the Ohio Valley. Washington believed that the future of America lay in the fertile farmlands of the Ohio, and a trade route to this area was key.
1765: First settlers in the area to be known as Friendsville
In 1765, John Friend and his brothers came and settled at the mouth of the Youghiogheny River which later would become Friendsville. Many Amish came south from Somerset, Pennsylvania, and settled much of the rich farming areas during this early period as well. Other Germans and Swiss of various faiths also found Garrett County to their liking at this time. Many of these early families’ names can still be found among the populace such as Friend, Glotfelty, Broadwater, Wilt, Savage, Browning, Bittinger, Brenneman, Buckel, Beachy and Hershberger.
1776: Washington County splits off from Frederick County
Washington County was created from Frederick County by resolve of the 9th Provincial Convention; named for George Washington (1732-1799), Commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and first President of the United States.
1789: Allegany County splits off from Washington County
Allegany County was formed in 1789 from Washington County (Chapter 29, Acts of 1789). The name Allegany comes from the Indian word, “oolikhanna”, meaning “beautiful stream.”
1798: The James Drane House was built (the oldest building still standing in the County)
The Drane house was built in 1798 by William Lamar and was given to his sister and her husband, Priscilla and James Drane in about 1800. The Dranes along with their eight children migrated to Western Maryland from the tobacco farming area of Prince George’s County.
James envisioned himself a country gentlemen. He planned to raise a large acreage of tobacco. Frontier life required long hours of arduous work to provide the basic necessities of life. Their family was one of several who attempted tobacco culture in Garrett County’s early days. These early settlers from Southern Maryland never achieved the prosperity from tobacco farming that they anticipated. They did not realize the difficulties of farming mountainous terrain. Their efforts were thwarted by severe winters, poorly constructed dirt roads and the great distance to market. Many were driven back to their former homes by the loneliness and isolation of mountain life. The Dranes changed their methods to general faming and occupied the home until their deaths.
Over the years, the Drane House had a variety of owners and occupants. In 1952, it became vacant and fell into a state of disrepair. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1985. Shortly thereafter, a group of concerned citizens formed the Accident Cultural and Historical Society. They explored options for the deteriorating home. The town purchased the property and began restoration through a series of grants. Architectural and archeological experts were called upon to reconstruct and preserve the landmark home. It is also significant because of its architecture. It was built using a highly unusual combination of the log and frame construction techniques. They carefully dismantled the building one log a time and then reassembled it with old and new logs. The massive restoration project was finished in 1994.
1800s: National Road creates the town of Grantsville
With the advent of the National Pike in the early 1800’s, many people passed through the northern parts of the county to points westward. Some found it to their liking and stayed. The town of Grantsville came about due to the influx of traffic along this road.
1817: Casselman Bridge opens
In 1806, the United States Congress commissioned David Shriver, Jr., a celebrated Cumberland civil engineer, to locate, plan, and construct the National Road, including the Casselman River Bridge. Shriver personally took charge of the bridge construction that began in 1813. The stone arch of the bridge is 26 feet wide, 3 feet thick, and from end to end spans 80 feet, designed to accommodate C&O Canal boats should they someday cross the Alleghenies. When it opened to traffic in 1817, the Casselman River Bridge was the largest single span stone arch bridge in America.
Since its construction, many famous personalities have crossed over this bridge including Presidents James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, James Polk, and Zachary Taylor, and then Congressman Abraham Lincoln. In 1953, following the completion of a new bridge and Route 40 nearby, officials closed the Casselman River Bridge to all but pedestrian traffic.
In 1957, the State Roads Commission acquired several acres west of the bridge. With the assistance of the Department of Forests and Parks, the two agencies developed the park and picnic area you see there today. In 1964, the Secretary of Interior and the National Park Service declared the bridge a National Historic Landmark. In 1972 and 1993, the State Highway Administration transferred portions of the site to the Department of Natural Resources. The bridge is now the focal point of the four-acre Casselman River Bridge State Park.
1850s: Glades Hotel built
Deriving its name from the nearby area called “Youghiogheny Glades,” the Glades Hotel was built in the mid1850’s by Perry Lyle directly across the tracks from the 1851 Oakland railroad station. John Dailey, who gradually extended it parallel to the tracks tripling its original length, purchased it in 1859. Among guests at the hotel were a number of railroad officials and, before the Civil War, U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis.
For a number of years railroad passenger trains did not have dining cars, and the Glades Hotel was one of the many regular stops along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad where passengers could get a quick meal in the hotel’s dining room.
After Garrett County was established in 1872, visiting Circuit Court judges used the old, and later the new, Glades Hotel as a place to hold court until a regular courthouse was built in 1877. The original Glades Hotel burned to the ground in 1874, but in the same year a new version was built east of the old location in the area now occupied by the Town of Oakland parking lot.
Mr. John Dailey continued to manage the new Glades Hotel until his death in 1881. John Brant, a long time employee, then assumed management until it finally closed in the early 1900’s. The building was torn down for the lumber in 1908.
Early 1850s: B&O Railroad was built through what is now known as Garrett County
The B&O Railroad began with the vision of two men, John Work Garrett, who ultimately, became the president of the B&O, and E. Francis Baldwin, who was the primary architect of the B&O buildings. Together the duo built many of the B&O buildings from the Central Building and Camden Station in Baltimore to the station in Parkersburg, WV.
Garrett became president of the B&O in 1858 after an acrimonious stockholders fight. He was bound to stockholders with a promise of a good return on their investments while caught in a race to see which would be the major railroad line to the west, the B&O or the Pennsylvania Railroad. The competing lines were trying to provide the fastest and most convenient service at the lowest fare.
Just as the B&O line was building a head of steam, the Civil War created a deep divide in the nation. Garrett promised President Lincoln that he would devote his railroad to the Union cause even though the railroad ran through Confederate territory for a short distance. At that time, people in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland were ambivalent about which side of the war effort to support. This commitment found favor with Lincoln who was determined to preserve and protect the Union.
The railroad would greatly open up the area that would become Garrett County. During the railroad period which lasted until the early part of this century, the Irish, Scotch, and Welsh came to mine the coal and cut the timber. This brought great population growth in the county along the railroad. The towns of Oakland, Bloomington and Swanton would spring up during this time as commercial, mining, and timber centers, dependant on the railroad for receiving and shipping products to market. The railroads also were resposible for building large summer resorts in the beautiful mountain areas in Garrett County. The rich and the famous were often found in Garrett County during this time period recreating. President Cleveland and his wife spent their honeymoon in 1886 at the Dear Park Resort in Garrett County.
1863: Confederate raid on Oakland
During a raid by Confederate troops on the town of Oakland on Sunday, April 26, 1863, the Glades Hotel was the only building in town subject to cannon fire. The troops had information that an injured Union officer was recuperating in the hotel so they fired a cannon shot down the rail line toward the hotel from the Second Street crossing. John Dailey was able to convince the Confederate troops, after allowing a thorough search of the building, that a Union officer was not in the building, thus sparing the hotel.
1872: Garrett County created out of Allegany County, with Oakland as the County seat
Garrett County Maryland was formed from the western triangular section of Allegany County in 1872. It was the last of Maryland’s counties to be created. The County was named after the president of the B&O Railroad at the time, John Work Garrett. John Garrett died at Deer Park, Garrett County in 1884. The railroad was responsible for Garrett County’s economic growth during the later half of the 19th century which is why it was named for him.
According to local historian Al Feldstein, “It was a constitutional requirement however, that the final ratification of the county’s creation be left up to the qualified voters of the territory. The question concerning the creation of a new county, as well as the ‘people’s choice’ for county seat, were both voted on in the November 4, 1872 general election. Voters overwhelmingly approved creation of the new county by a vote of 1,297 to 405. The popular choice of the electorate for the county seat was Oakland, which won out over rivals Grantsville and McHenry’s Glades, the former by only 63 votes.”